They have been studying the French language with teacher Deidre Mayer since the eighth grade so when the longtime faculty member took her sixth period class filled with seniors into Manhattan for a Broadway show it was a celebration of all the years they have spent together.
The French 5 Honors class has been studying the realm of French literature along with several newer visual adaptations of classic pieces. Two literary works read this year include “La Belle et la Bête” by novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and “Le Fantôme de l’opéra” by Gaston Leroux.
“I was hoping students would gain a greater understanding of the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ by first reading it in its original language of French and comparing and contrasting how the original book evolved into the play,” Madame Mayer said. “Themes of unrequited, unreciprocated love and acceptance were discussed before and after viewing the play. By seeing the play, it brings the original story to life. Students gain a greater appreciation of how French literature has also contributed to theater worldwide as there are performances of Phantom throughout the world which all originated from the story we read in class.”
After nearly completing its reading of “Le Fantôme de l’opéra,” which was published in 1909, the class watched two adaptations of the book including the 1925 silent horror film and the more recent 2004 film. The works were all read and watched in their native French language.
“The silent horror film was an interesting perspective of an interpretation of the book,” Finn Malone. “With the movie, I really enjoyed how it followed fairly closely to the literature.”
Once the class finished watching the movie, the long awaited trip to New York City was finally at hand. A class of all seniors consisting of Erika Varady, Haley Mortell, Ashlyn Case, Casey Smith, Colette Barron, Michael McCooey, Meagan Malone, Cynthia Portillo, Izzy Malone, Finn Malone and Irtana Deslouches boarded a bus and headed to Broadway to see a live stage version of Phantom of the Opera
“Even though we are such a small group, we had such an amazing time,” Ms. Barron said. “The show was so spectacular and we had perfect seats to view the grand chandelier falling. We have all been studying French for many years and we have all anticipated seeing ‘Phantom of the Opera’ when we were seniors. We all love the different songs from the show and the actor’s musical abilities were incredible as well.”
The trip to Broadway reinforced the belief that learning doesn’t just occur in a classroom. Students on this trip will always remember the once in a lifetime opportunity to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’ with a class that considers each other family.
“Connecting earlier recitations of literature to modern movies and plays allowed us to really grasp how a story can evolve with a certain culture,” Ms. Mortell said. “Going to see ‘Phantom’ on Broadway was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I am so grateful for the opportunity and loved everything about the play, including the soundtrack, which contains some of my favorite music to play and sing.”
The seniors had enjoyed every minute of the recent trip and so did their teacher. “Although, I’ve seen it 13 times and read it with my upper level classes for several years, it is never boring,” Madame Mayer said. “Anybody can relate to the classic story. I love going with my students and experiencing their excitement.”
A graduate of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, Madame Mayer studied for an undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke and Barnard College of Columbia University, carrying a major in French and minor in Latin. The veteran educator obtained a master’s degree at New York University in French language and civilization. She even went to yoga school and holds certifications in Rahini Yoga and Kundalini Yoga.
The seniors are enjoying their final months of studying French at Huntington High School. “We have a ‘bonne’ (good) time in class,” said Ms. Varady, president of French Honor Society.